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Johan van Hulst (1911–2018) Holocaust hero

by Kirk Fox

Dutch principal saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Johan van Hulst, a Dutch principal who saved the lives of hundreds of children during the Holocaust, died March 22, 2018, at the age of 107, according to multiple news sources. 

Van Hulst was the director of a Protestant religious seminary during World War II that bordered a day care that was being used by the Nazis to hold Jewish children before they were transported to concentration camps. 

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Van Hulst and resistance members smuggled hundreds of children from the day care to the seminary. When it was clear, the children would be carried over a hedge to the seminary. The children would stay at the seminary until a resistance activist would sneak them out in a basket on a bicycle to be taken to a family that had agreed to adopt a child. 

It is estimated that Van Hulst saved hundreds of Jewish children from being sent to concentration camps. 

Van Hulst was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in 1973. His heroism was featured in the film “Sussman.” 

Van Hulst talked about his experiences with Yad Vashem: 

“Try to imagine 80, 90, perhaps 70 or 100 children standing there, and you have to decide which children to take with you…. That was the most difficult day of my life,” he remembered of the period in 1943 when the Jewish day-care center was due to be cleared out. 

“You realize that you cannot possibly take all the children with you. You know for a fact that the children you leave behind are going to die. I took twelve with me. Later on I asked myself: ‘Why not thirteen?'”

Van Hulst later became a senator, serving from 1956 until 1981. 

The Dutch ambassador to Israel, Gilles Beschoor Plug, told CNN that van Hulst “will be remembered especially as a hero of the Dutch resistance during World War II. His passing is a great loss. His courageous acts saving many Jewish children remain an inspiration for generations to come.” 

The school is now the home of the National Holocaust Museum of the Netherlands. 

We invite you to share condolences for Johan van Hulst in his Guest Book.

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